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Last week we posted a speech by Newt Gingrich on the current situation. It has sparked a great deal of discussion, which continues here.

Gingrich Agonistes.

As always, Speaker Gingrich is a shrewd observer and a keen student of history. And, as nearly always, unfortunately, he's largely fixated on the wrong subset of problems, or on symptoms, rather than root causes.

Based upon the contents of his speech, Speaker Gingrich accepts that it is the Manifest Destiny of These United States to act as Empire; his gripe is that, so far, we seem to be capable only of Incompetent Empire, rather than Competent Empire. That is apparently the entire scope of his vision.

With regards to the Islamic Question; there is a tried and true, very simple, historically validated, very *final* solution to this problem, when all is said and done. If one accepts the premises of Speaker Gingrich's worldview, the choices are whether the putative American Empire will simply prostrate herself on the altar of Political Correctness and allow herself to be beheaded; or whether she will, at long last, revert to mos maiorum and resolve the issue for all time.

In point of fact, even with ~100 tactical nukes, neither Pakistan, nor the Taliban, nor the entire worldwide confederation of militant Muslisms can possibly constitute an existential threat to a United States who refuses to bend her knee and crane her neck in anticipation of the headsman's blow.

The truly existential threat we face, one which requires no cravenness on our part (though there's plenty to go around, naturally), is the Middle Kingdom. The demographics are against us; whether we've the intestinal fortitude to see the thing through to its logical conclusion will decide all.

- Roland Dobbins

As most readers know, I favor energy independence, a strategy of technology, and a return to the Old Republic.

Having said that, I prefer energy independence, a strategy of technology, and competent empire to the nonsense that has ruled this nation since 1989. I visited the Soviet Union for the first and only time during its last days. It was pretty clear that the USSR had been defeated and that Gorbachev could not hold it together. Few noticed that.

When the Cold War ended we had many choices. We seem to have made the wrong choice at nearly every opportunity.


As usual, Greg Cochran has his own view:

Newt Gingrich

He's full of it, as usual. Anyone who thinks that the war on terror is a real war, facing a real and _major_ threat, is a fool. If I had the power, Newt would vanish from public life and do some job he was better suited to: maybe a zoo vet.

Gregory Cochran

What Cochran is saying is simple enough: the Moslem world poses no existential threat to the United States, and need not be taken seriously; we harm ourselves by sending armies to intervene over there. We need to stay home, defend our borders, build a powerful Navy, and develop our technical resources including our security systems.

The real threat, if there be one, is from China, which does have the resources -- but probably not the will -- to pose an existential threat to these United States.

Objectively, Greg is right and always has been. The Arab and Moslem worlds working together (which they can't do) could not take a drink from the Mississippi without our let and leave, nor land one terrorist on our soil if we were determined to prevent that; we need not go to their world to give them hostages and targets.

Objectively this is true. There is no Moslem Navy. They have no Marines, and no way to mount an invasion of the New World. Their weapons are infiltration and terrorist tactics, which are not decisive, and which we aren't doing a lot to resist anyway: our borders are porous and it's very easy in this politically correct world to buy a ticket to the United States. Once here our internal freedoms allow acquisition of the ingredients for terror. Our invasions of the Middle East do little to correct that (and our bombardment of Belgrade for the benefit of the Albanians did nothing at all to increase our national security).

Objectivity, alas, does not seem to have much weight of argument in these days of political correctness, global warming hysteria, and general funk.

And had I the power banishment, I have a long list of people we would be better off without. It does not include either Greg or Newt.

Continued below


On Global Warming


Thought you might find this interesting. Its more from the UK journalist Christopher Booker on Climate Change - yours Kevin Law


Kevin Law


Delegates depart Bali talks on a lot of hot air - Telegraph

By Christopher Booker Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 16/12/2007

As those 10,000 weary delegates were at last able to jet off home from 10 days on their holiday isle, perhaps the best summing up of what they had achieved came from Humberto Rosa, head of the delegation representing the European Union. It is exactly what we wanted," he said. "We are very pleased. We will now have two tremendously demanding years, starting in January. Many meetings, many discussions, many people passing many hours doing things." The basic purpose of Bali, as we were tirelessly reminded by the BBC, Al Gore, old Uncle Ban Ki-moon and pretty well everyone else, was that this vast assemblage of people should gather together to vilify George Bush. It was he alone who stood in the way of saving the planet, by refusing even to sign Kyoto into law, let alone participate in the new historic agreement which is to follow, and to discuss which Bali was all about. (It is conveniently forgotten that it was the US Senate which unanimously voted not to ratify Kyoto in 1998, when the vice-president of the USA was Al Gore). In the end, as in all good comedies, the "baddies" came round to the side of light, the US representative made her "climbdown" by saying that her country was now ready to join the "consensus", and everyone could go home happy. The reality of Bali, however, was that all this vilification of America as the "world's worst polluter" was only displacement activity - to disguise the fact that, when it comes to the crunch, no one is really prepared to step off the bandwagon of economic growth, by making the unthinkable sacrifices which would be required if any of them actually meant what they said. They are all happy to work themselves into an intense state of excitement by chanting their quasi-religious mantra: that there is now "absolute scientific consensus" that Planet Earth is doomed unless we cut our carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2050. but no one is prepared to take any serious step towards that inconceivable goal unless everyone else jumps too. 

America refused to ratify Kyoto because it didn't include the "developing countries" such as China, still building a new coal-fired power station every four days and about to overtake the US as the world's leading CO2 emitter. China and India say they cannot be expected to cut their emissions until they have caught up economically with the already industrialised nations which caused all that rise in CO2 in the first place. the European Union likes to claim that it is "leading the world on climate change", while Germany builds 26 new coal-fired power stations, Britain plans to double its number of air passengers and the EU's emissions continue to rise (just when America's last year actually fell).

Thus Bali ends in a wonderfully meaningless compromise, whereby everyone, including America, agrees that they want their carbon-free pie-in-the-sky, so long as they don't yet have to sign up to actual figures and mandatory targets. the only people really rejoicing in Bali were all those beady-eyed businessmen who have sussed out that the "carbon trading schemes" set up under Kyoto are turning into the most colossal commercial racket of our day. As for the armadas of politicians and officials, as the man from the EU said, they can look forward to "many meetings, many discussions, many people passing many hours doing things", lasting from here to the crack of doom (which incidentally may never arrive, because, though CO2 levels are still rising, global temperatures are not - a fact mentioned in Bali by precisely no one).


Subject: climate change

Jerry: Finally, a little sanity in the climate change area:


The signatories actually appear to be people who have a clue, as opposed to demagogues who plan to enrich themselves in carbon credit schemes.

Chris C

-- Right now the Republicans and Democrats in Washington seem, from the outside, to be an elite colluding against the voter. Peggy Noonan


Harry Erwin's Letter from England

I heard a rumour during the week that the university I teach at will be wound up in two years time. The immediate reason is long-term financial problems--apparently we're on HEFCE's at-risk register of universities in serious trouble <http://education.guardian.co.uk/egweekly/story/0,,1462454,00.html

>. The real reason is that any UK institution that relies on Government funding (the NHS, the universities, etc.) can't make strategic plans due to the instability of Government policy; the most they can do is plan ahead a year or two. I'm including a few illustrative stories below.

NHS and the iron law of bureaucracy: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article3056691.ece

> <http://tinyurl.com/2d8vj4>

Prostate cancer treatment to be abandoned: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/12/16/ncancer116.xml

> <http://tinyurl.com/22a88f>

Eye treatment: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7142167.stm>

Hospital food: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/dec/16/nhs.health


Surviving cancer: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/health/article2983768.ece

> <http://tinyurl.com/2d67a7>

Catastrophic cuts in the physical sciences: <http://www.nature.com/news/2007/071211/full/news.2007.366.html

> <http://tinyurl.com/2ch2mm>

<http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2007/1211/2> <http://tinyurl.com/2xfhet >

Cutting back on foreign students: <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2228202,00.html

> <http://tinyurl.com/378g56>

Censoring science teaching: <http://www.nature.com/news/2007/071121/full/450467a.html


Gordon Brown in free fall: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article3056690.ece

> <http://tinyurl.com/2yx3kj>

<http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article3056714.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/25fr6m >


> <http://tinyurl.com/ysoshb>

Visa goofiness: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7146527.stm>

Looking for Scottish terrorists on the railroads: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7146080.stm


Other threats: <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2228243,00.html

> <http://tinyurl.com/2kyy9c>

Authority versus personal liberty in England: <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2228328,00.html

> <http://tinyurl.com/3d3q7p>

Ebola mutating. (The animal reservoir for Ebola is apparently Rousettus, an African fruit bat that lives in caves.): <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2228284,00.html

> <http://tinyurl.com/yssvun>

John Sentamu on Zimbabwe: <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2228273,00.html

> <http://tinyurl.com/yq8qe2>

McCann case round-up: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article3040094.ece

> <http://tinyurl.com/2cdkux>

Princess Diana post-mortum: <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/legal/article3255693.ece

> <http://tinyurl.com/24qvyd>

Don't tax you; don't tax me; tax that man there under the tree: <http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/money/tax/article3054291.ece

> <http://tinyurl.com/24jaoz> (My American tax accountant has been following this story for the last month.)

A criticism of current approaches to clinical trials: <http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/extract/357/22/2219

>. You need a subscription to NEJM to access the full article, but the basic message is that "many of these studies, funded by the drug companies, have turned into bad science driven by marketing considerations." (Tom Vogl)


Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland.


Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>


Subject: Buy bulbs!

Better start hoarding lightbulbs. Our Glorious Leader is on a tear, gonna save the world from (*gasp*) that Devil Carbon -- by outlawing the *lightbulb*!

Future looks dim for incandescent bulbs



Don't forget to buy a lifetime supply of "utility" bulbs for your refrigerator and oven -- there will NEVER be a compact fluorescent replacement for *them*.

And, any applications that need lamp dimmers... there'll be NO drop-in CF replacement for them either.

Make no mistake -- I *like* CF bulbs. But, that's because I was able to buy a huge assortment of them -- and ballasts -- for literally pennies on the dollar a few years ago. If I had to pay *real* prices for them, no way, Jorge!

They're great -- for SOME things. And, absolutely *worthless* for OTHER things.

As to LEDs for household illumination, don't hold your breath -- unless you're gonna hold onto your wallet, tight. They're great so long as you can live with *spotlight* applications. But, an LED that puts out *blindingly* bright light in a 20 degree cone will be dim-city if you remove the reflector.

Prediction: There will be an "unanticipated consequence" of this folly, namely, people will discover a "non-electric" incandescent light source. Wise money will go long mantle futures. And, fire extinguisher stocks too. Say hello to the decade of the nineties again -- the EIGHTEEN-nineties!

Right now they're probably gearing up for increased production at Coleman and Aladdin -- not realizing that "China, Inc." will *also* gear up to put *them* into a world of hurt.

Insanity -- it's not just a way of life -- it's THE way of life!

PS: If you do a bit of web searching, you'll find a story that got a fair amount of coverage a few months ago. There was a woman who bought into the program, lock, stock and barrel. But, the unexpected occurred. One of her CF bulbs fell onto the floor and *broke*! Good grief, WHO could *possibly* have considered *that* eventuality? What rational engineer could have been expected to anticipate such a crazy one-off accident?

So, she "did the right thing" and before she knew it, her house was roped off as the space-suit-guys entered the contamination zone to *try* to remove the Devil Mercury (yes, CF bulbs contain *mercury*! Oh, the irony!)

The problem was, they couldn't. It had seeped into her carpet. She was finally allowed back into her home, but the "contamination zone" room was sealed -- and, she had to fork out something like THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS to pay for the cleanup for the toxic waste situation she had created.

Good thing that no OTHER compact fluorescent tubes will ever fall onto the floor and break, right?

The mind boggles.

I'm *so* glad I voted for that guy -- once. (I *could* have gone and done it *twice*!)

The thing is, all that time, I though I was voting to prevent Al Gore running the country, and now it turns out that for all intents and purposes, he *is* running things.


 "This is one of the most significant policies ... in terms of reducing electric demand and addressing global warming," says Lowell Ungar of the Alliance to Save Energy.


Gee, I feel all warm and tingly and green all over already.

But that's nothing compared to all the folks who'll feel *really* warm, as they watch their homes go up in flames after the cat knocks over the lantern.

Come to think of it, might not be bad to invest in fire engine manufacturing companies too.

Some days it seems like a coin toss between Orwell and Monty Python...



On Ron Paul:

"I don't know how much my opinion is worth, but I work with the Constitution every day."


-- Roland Dobbins


The great melting pot seems to be rather.. lumpy.

"Some Los Angeles gangs are strictly robbery crews, others jack cars, Vietnamese gangs specialize in identity theft, Russian and Armenian gangs do mostly extortion and human trafficking. At last count, Los Angeles County had more than 714 gangs and 80,000 gang members. That makes one of every hundred county residents either a hardcore soldier in a gang or an "associate" — the getaway drivers, lookouts, "cookers" (people who know how to turn cocaine into crack) and "hooks" (people who direct customers to drug houses) — or an "affiliate," a gang member with no specific duties. But no section of L.A. is more defined by gangs than the nine square miles of Watts terrorized by the Bounty Hunter Bloods and Grape Street Crips: the Nickerson Gardens and Jordan Downs housing projects, along with Imperial Courts and Gonzaque Village, and the streets that connect them."

LA Weekly article on Gangs <http://www.laweekly.com/news/news/

The scary thing here is the discussion of the culture of hopelessness. Having grown up in LA (and having left, never to return) it pervaded the youth there. When I worked in south central, there was a feeling in the air. The scary thing is that in Rochester, NY I'm *starting* to feel the same culture from our inner city. (Though I do laugh when people say they're scared of crime here in Rochester.) Somehow we've managed to create sub-cultures in America that are profoundly without hope and against personal improvement. (I know of a number of extremely bright people who've escaped, but the pro-ignorance feeling in these American cultures is... frightening.)

As I see this motif echoed in the news, I'm increasingly happy that I'll be getting my Ph.D. outside of the U.S. And in three years, I'll look at the U.S. culture and compare it to where I will have currently lived. If current trends continue, it's the American culture that will be found wanting (for none of our serious potential presidents will make any effort to actually change the problem. That would take work and sacrifice.)

I'm not even sure if, given our current culture, a solution is possible.


It is possible, but it is getting late.





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Tuesday,  December 18, 2007

Continuing the discussion of national strategy precipitated by Newt Gingrich's speech.

Subject: Answers?

"Objectively this is true. There is no Moslem Navy. They have no Marines, and no way to mount an invasion of the New World. Their weapons are infiltration and terrorist tactics, which are not decisive, and which we aren't doing a lot to resist anyway: our borders are porous and it's very easy in this politically correct world to buy a ticket to the United States. Once here our internal freedoms allow acquisition of the ingredients for terror. Our invasions of the Middle East do little to correct that (and our bombardment of Belgrade for the benefit of the Albanians did nothing at all to increase our national security)."

So you're advocating that we (the US) just absorb the blows delivered to us? After all, they're not "decisive". Col Robert Scott wrote about an incident in one of my favorite books as a youth, God is My Co-pilot. In it he explained that a P-40 crash landed in a river - supplies and weapons being as scarce as they were, the AVG wanted to salvage the plane, maybe even get it to fly again. After 2 weeks of American engineering efforts to raise the plane, the Americans gave up and turned the job over to the coolies who'd been telling them day after day that they could raise it in a couple of hours. The coolies took stalks of bamboo, one by one, and dove into the waters to place them under the wings of the plane at the bottom of the river. The plane rose to the surface very shortly and eventually flew again.

Shoot, I live in Louisiana - one mosquito is an annoyance, hundreds can drive you insane. Before that, you seek shelter and whatever conveyance possible to avoid the skeeters and thus a certain loss of freedom.

The US can stand for a while against the annoyances of infiltration and terrorist tactics, but it can't stand forever - eventually facing a "death by a thousand cuts." (allegory intentional - and its not to say that we haven't taken 750 cuts already...). One of the tenets of winning a battle, even a war, is to do so on the field of your choosing. Carry the battle to the enemy where you have the advantage (clichés, of course, but ignore at peril of defeat). In my opinion, the opportunity to fight the enemy in his homeland (or any elsewhere that is not my home) preserves the opportunity for us to maintain our internal freedoms for a longer period of time. I do not relish losing our internal freedoms in the interest of ''safety" due control of the ingredients of terror.

David Couvillon
 Colonel of Marines; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Collector of Hot Sauce; Avoider of Yard Work

I answered privately

I'll answer this in public.

Surely you know better, though?

We spent a trillion dollars in Iraq. For that we could have had real border security -- no one thinks a real border fence would cost more than 50 billion, and another 50 billion would buy computer based security systems for airports. For that kind of money we could put identity bracelets on all visitors: or put chips in their visas.

With the other 900 billion dollars we could have energy independence, space solar power satellites, and a 500 ship Navy.

A trillion dollars is a lot of money, Colonel.

and received

Stuff of discussion!

I too would put the money different places. AND, I'd fight the 'war' differently. But you make the fundamental mistake that everyone makes... If we weren't spending this money in Iraq we'd spend it on (fill in the blank). (Geez, I want to throttle politicians, actors, neighbors who automatically assume money would be spent on something better/else). It's the same as the "If we can put a man on the moon..." argument. Neither have anything to do with each other for the simple reason that the WILL is different.

Where did the Cold War dividend go? To our improved schools? Universal Healthcare? A chicken in every pot?

Nope. Just 'cause it's spent on A doesn't mean that if A didn't exist, we'd spend it on B, C, D, E, ad infintum. Just because you have choices doesn't mean you'll take one.

Neither you nor I are running this country. Therefore, to assume any of that trillion will go to good use is the very definition of "assume".

But back to our first point. None of this does anything to stop a determined enemy, whatever his reason is.

I don't know if it made the national news about two Indian nationals murdered at LSU over the weekend. One of their neighbors wailed, "There's no safety on campus. And, there's no safety off of campus! What can we do?" Well, duh. Expectation of perfect safety as an individual, or as nation, is the nectar of fools.



Which deserves answering all in one piece.

Taking the last point first: while it is true that we would not have spent a trillion dollars on internal security, a Navy, and energy independence, had we not gone into Iraq we would have had a few hundred billion to spend on something.

We would also have finished the job in Afghanistan before taking on new burdens. I won't offer a plan for what we ought to have done in Afghanistan because I make no doubt that the Marines know perfectly well what should have been done there; they are asking to have Afghanistan, a nation with no sea coasts, as their province even unto this day. Few doubt that given some of the resources poured into Mesopotamia we could have built Afghanistan into a reasonably solid ally, nothing like Kismet but still a reasonably stable place. (I'd have favored bringing back the King, but that's another matter, and not worth discussion now.)

And, given that we hadn't spent a trillion in Mesopotamia, (and hadn't exhausted the Legions and stripped the force of much of its equipment and supplies), there would have been money left: we could at least have a realistic debate about energy independence as an alternate to a strategy of global intervention.


As to defense of the realm against the death of a thousand cuts: you know better. If the cuts continued, there would have been concerted effort to make them stop. Again I leave it to others to state what, precisely, ought to have been done to accomplish that, but I continue to assert that a realistic assessment of enemy capabilities -- and of just who was the enemy -- would not have resulted in invasion of Iraq. Saddam was a loathsome dictator with disgusting children, but he was no threat to the United States of America, and was easily deterred.

The White House was manipulated into believing in fantasies: that we could defeat Saddam in a few days (obviously true) and that the same army that breaks things and kills people could then install Chalabi The Thief as the new ruler of a unified Iraq that would make friends with Israel and Turkey and become Our Man In Baghdad. I need not go into how that trick was accomplished.


As to carrying the war to the enemy: the best way to make an enemy quit fighting is to devastate his homeland while denying him access to yours.  That way all the casualties are his, not yours. In our case the means for accomplishing this are simple: develop our own resources, build nuclear and then space power generating systems, export energy. Without the oil revenues the Arab world is irrelevant.

You argue that our choices are do nothing, or become a competent Empire. I don't think you believe that. I think it is still possible to restore, if not the Old Republic, at least a Federal Republic with a uniquely American culture (give the Melting Pot a chance!) that doesn't meddle with everyone else's affairs. That doesn't mean sitting back and letting others make us targets.

When 9/11 happened, my original proposal was to build monuments: a field of rubble the exact size of Ground Zero, in every major city in which there was dancing in the streets after the event.

I was told this was cruel and unfair and would result in needless slaughter. I put it to you that it would have cost fewer casualties, both US and Arab, than what we did; and that it would have been a damned effective way of demonstrating that one doesn't mess with the American People.

And a related question:

Subj: Should the US Navy suppress piracy?

Please help me understand the boundaries of the proposed "bring the troops home" policy.

We have reports like this:


>>For the past two months, the U.S. Navy has been operating within Somali territorial waters, against Somali pirates. ...<<

Is this a proper activity for the US Navy? Or should the Navy operate only in international waters? Or only near the US, except during declared wars? Or only against pirates that attack US territory or US vessels?

Would agreements with other Navies, to coordinate activities against pirates, constitute "entangling alliances" that we should avoid?

I note that the Navy operated against the Barbary Pirates, fairly far from home, fairly early in its history.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

This seems to assume that I favor some kind of "bring the troops home" policy, which is not true. I certainly wish we had never sent the troops to Baghdad (as opposed to Kabul where we should have finished the job and learned some humility about governing people without the consent of the governed); but we have them in Baghdad now, and precipitous withdrawal would be a disaster. Alas, we didn't have an exit strategy when we went in, we had no military government strategy after we got there, and we are only now stumbling toward building the Auxiliary force that we can leave behind when we withdraw the Legions.

But I have never, on my best or worst day, thought that it was not the job of the United States Navy to assure the freedom of the seas! Enforcement of International Law regarding piracy is our lot: we inherited that when we helped take the Empire away from the Brits and thus denied them the resources to keep their Fleet. Once the Royal Navy withdrew from East of Suez, that became our job, and it's one we ought to be doing a lot better than we are now.

I favor a strong Navy. I do not worry about the Navy as a threat to the Republic. Neither did the Framers, as you will note if you read the Constitution of 1787. The freedom of the seas and suppression of piracy is in the interest of the United States and always has been.

As to strategies for accomplishing that, we know how to do it; what the Navy lacks is the resources and appropriate orders.


Newt's speech


One thought grabbed me as I read Newt's comments about Iran. He is making the point that our response to Iran's provocations has been embarrassingly weak. On symbolism and principle, that appears correct. But in doing so, he pushes the view that Iran has been at war with us since 1979 - 28 years of combat. Considering that the war has been waged so long by the Iranian side, and that we haven't even tried to fight back (or so he says), the actual damage inflicted by them seems very low. Cynics might be tempted to ask why we so fear an enemy that has been so spectacularly ineffective in the conduct of its 28 year war that it has barely been able to get our attention?

CP, Connecticut

Monuments would have been sufficient.


Roman superglue.


-- Roland Dobbins


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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Subject: Lightbulbs -- NOW they're talking about it.

Glorious Leader signed the energy bill outlawing the lightbulb, some time within the past hour.

NOW, all of a sudden, the news media has discovered (or decided to mention) that little part of the bill.

Perfect timing. Wait until it's too late, and then drop the ol' shoe.

The reporter interviewing the legiscritter was NOT a happy camper. Said his wife had bought "some of those new lights" (CFL) and they *hated* them.

The pol just smirked and prattled on about progress and moving on -- one cliche after another, clearly working off the "light bulb talking points."

This is *so* bad... There are SO many applications that can NOT be serviced by non-incandescent lights. How ironic that they pushed this abortion through "in the dark" to ensure zero opposition.

I expect that there'll be some major opposition to it now -- too late -- but the "complainers" will be told that they should have spoken up sooner.

SOP -- sneak something truly horrible through while no one is looking, and then blame the victims for lack of due diligence.

And they wonder why people are increasingly cynical about politics.


Here they come to save the day!

Both parties are conspiracies against the voters.

Subj: Bring the troops home?

I hope Dr. Pournelle will forgive me for appearing to accuse him of wanting to "bring the troops home".

I clearly misunderstood the difference between his position and the position of Dr. Ron Paul, of whom Dr. Pournelle has spoken approvingly.

Now I may be mistaken about Dr. Paul as well, but this seems pretty clear:


>>We can continue to fund and fight no-win police actions around the globe, or we can refocus on securing America and bring the troops home.<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

I have not endorsed Dr. Paul. I am in agreement with much of what he says and believes about the powers of the president and the central government. I believe he would pursue a rational foreign policy. I believe he would not have allowed us to get into this mess in the Middle East and elsewhere. But having sent the Legions to Mesopotamia, we have given them a stake in the outcome, and we have no choice but to pay attention to their wishes; and they don't want to come home and abandon their friends and allies to the tender mercies of civil war. We did that already in Viet Nam, throwing away a victory for political purposes and abandoning all those who had relied on us to people like Pol Pot. It took years for the military to weather that betrayal.

Our foreign policy and interventions since the Cold War have not been in the interests of the American people, but then many of our domestic policies -- see the letter just above this one -- have not been in our interest. Dr. Paul overall would attempt to dismantle some of the centralization mechanisms we have put in place, and would attempt to withdraw many of our imbecile overseas commitments; to that extent I would be pleased to see him as President.

This is more or less academic in any event. There is no way the Ruling Class in this country would allow a strict constitutionalist to become president of these United States. I recall the Goldwater Campaign of 1964 (Roberta and I were Republican County Co-Chairs in San Bernardino), and I know what would happen. The American Medical Association would find a reason to denounce Dr. Paul. Two thousand psychiatrists would sign letters certifying him as insane. The police would find some flaw in his medical practice, and a hundred trial lawyers would find people to sue him for malpractice. The only way Ron Paul could become president would be with the support of the Legions -- who do not want precipitate withdrawal from Mesopotamia.

Do I mean what I just said or is that tongue in cheek? I will leave that for you to assess.


RE: Answers?

"When 9/11 happened, my original proposal was to build monuments: a field of rubble the exact size of Ground Zero, in every major city in which there was dancing in the streets after the event.

I was told this was cruel and unfair and would result in needless slaughter. I put it to you that it would have cost fewer casualties, both US and Arab, than what we did; and that it would have been a damned effective way of demonstrating that one doesn't mess with the American People." Jerry Pournelle

We agree in principle. Even to the point of the old Republic. Of course, my Republic is one of States Rights.

David W. Couvillon

So is mine. This was intended to be a Federal Republic. It worked very well as such.


Subject: suppressing pirates

It might be worth thinking quantitatively about just how big a navy we need in order to suppress world piracy - assuming that we do every bit of it ourselves. I figure about ten destroyers, allowing for rotations and assuming that we properly hang the pirates we catch. But maybe your correspondents understand why we need tens of hunter-killer nuclear submarines to deal with Somalis in speedboats. If so, they should explain it to me.

The idea that the Moslems are a big threat to the US is nonsense. The idea that any significant fraction of them are even _trying_ to be a threat to the US is nonsense. The idea that Iraq was ever a threat to the US is nonsense, and the idea that occupying Iraq makes us better off is nonsense. The idea that we were going to build a Jeffersonian democracy in Iraq was and is nonsense. The idea that there's going to be a "Long War" is nonsense. Hmm, what else - the idea that Iran is the rising threat to the US, that's nonsense too.

When we paid Ethiopia to invade Somalia (on the grounds that we were afraid the the new government might shelter ~ 5 people we thought were Al Qaeda), we neglected to realize that doing so would piss off virtually every Somali. If a handful of Al Qaeda guys were trouble, isn't a whole pissed -off nation that believes in blood vengeance _more_ trouble? Ethiopia is a shaky country, with a Moslem majority - was bribing it into a no-win occupation such a smart thing to do?


Back to work.

Gregory Cochran

You will not get me to defend US foreign policy since the end of the Seventy Years War AKA the Cold War. I was willing to do what was required for containment so that the USSR could not make war feed war.

Your view of the intentions of the Muslim world are not entirely consistent with history. The fundamental message of the Koran is that there is the House of Islam and the House of War, and there can be only truce, never peace, between those. Of course truces can last a long time. Some of the Muslim world has experienced something similar to the Enlightenment in Europe. Much of it has not.

Your view of the optimum size of the Navy is not mine.


Subject: Pirates

Gregg C said

Subject: suppressing pirates

It might be worth thinking quantitatively about just how big a navy we need in order to suppress world piracy - assuming that we do every bit of it ourselves. I figure about ten destroyers, allowing for rotations and assuming that we properly hang the pirates we catch. But maybe your correspondents understand why we need tens of hunter-killer nuclear submarines to deal with Somalis in speedboats. If so, they should explain it to me.


The submarines are needed for the other pirates. (and need the assistance of a couple of carrier battle groups)

The ones that use Chinese Coast Guard Cutters to seize ships in International Waters, eliminate the crews, sail the ships to Chinese ports, sell the cargo, change the marks on the ship and sell them to smugglers.

Actually the sub isn't needed for the pirate catching, it is needed to escort the DD into Chinese waters and sink the Peoples Liberation Army (Navy) that is protecting them.

Look up where the piracy is taking place in the world. It will surprise you how many of our 3rd world allies are getting kickbacks for permitting piracy. Now most pirates are not full time bloodthisty villains. Their day job is usually as police and coast guard officials along the long path from the Gulf past the pirates of India, Indonesia, SE Asia and on, to Japan.

Most pirates are hit and run crooks who just steal the loose change etc. The dangerous ones are the big operations that go for the ship and everything associated with it.

(and for all the places that need the ships we only have 250 total -- Reagan tried to get it to 600 but fell short. Our current plans are to reduce the sub service to fewer boats than we had based in Manila at the start of ww2. When the current building is complete China will have more ships than the US in every class - except carriers)


(an ex submarine officer)

Continued below




-- Roland Dobbins

There will not always be an England. It is later than you know.


Subject: Incandescent Bulb Phase-out: Not the End of the World.

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

For obvious reasons I downloaded the text of the Energy Security and Independence Act of 2007 (HR 6) to look at the incandescent bulb efficiency standards I was relieved that there was actually a tad of common sense. The much ballyhooed “ban” on incandescents only affects general use bulbs, such as you’d put in a standard light fixture. There are quite a number of exemptions. Appliance bulbs are one. Marine and mine lamps, rough service lamps, vibration resistant lamps, reflector base lamps and sign service lamps are among the common sense exemptions. If you have a candelabra type fixture, it’s exempt. The same with showcase lamps and something called a silver bowl lamp.

I’m somewhat bemused to discover that bug lights, plant lights and 3-way lights also made the exemption list. CF versions of these are already on the market, though the 3-way versions are hard to find. The caveat is that if there’s sudden upsurge in 3-way lamps sales, then they’ll be subject to the same guidelines as general standard bulbs. I’m also surprised to find traffic lights made the list, for they’re already being changed out with LED versions (they have greater reliability, use less current, and are lighter – though they swing more in high winds).

The CF color issue varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. My favorite reading light is a standard GE CF bulb. OTOH another we tried had a harsh light, so it does vary. You can also find CFs that supposedly work with dimmers, but note that right now these are special items. Your standard CF bulb isn’t designed for dimmer circuits.

The bad thing about the ban has so far been missed by the press. You can’t use CFs where they are exposed to low temperatures, or where you need full lumens the moment you flip the switch. You can’t use most CFs in enclosed fixtures or where they’re exposed to water. The only choices available right now are halogen lights or specialized CFs. Mercury in CFs will be an issue in coming years. And so far I haven’t seen a cost of manufacture verses energy saved evaluation.

Ironically, this comes at a time when mercury vapor street lighting is being phased out. Why? Because they contain mercury.

Sigh. Maybe it really is the Crazy Years.

There’s a lot more to the bill than light bulbs and it will take a while to wade through it. It will be interesting to see what else is hidden in there.

- Kevin J. Cheek

Don't worry, the nanny state will protect you.


From David Morrison

Subject: NEO News (12/19/07) Tunguska Revision & New Book

NEO News (12/19/07) Tunguska Revision & New Book

Season's greetings and best wishes for a good new year!

The main story in this edition of NEO News concerns a proposed downsizing of the energy of the 1908 Tunguska airburst, with associated increase in the expected frequency of such impacts. Mark Boslough of Sandia has generated supercomputer simulations of the Tunguska atmospheric explosion. In part his models require less energy in the explosion because he includes the substantial downward momentum of the rocky impactor, rather then modeling it as a stationary explosion. If this revision (down to an estimated energy of 3-5 megatons, and a corresponding diameter of about 50 meters) is correct, the expected frequency of such impacts changes, from once in a couple of millennia to once in a few hundred years. If smaller impactors can do the damage previously associated with larger ones, of course, the total hazard from such impacts is increased.

The second item below is an announcement of publication of a new multi-author book "Comet/Asteroid Impacts and Human Society."

David Morrison

* *


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The stunning amount of forest devastation at Tunguska a century ago in Siberia may have been caused by an asteroid only a fraction as large as previously published estimates, Sandia National Laboratories supercomputer simulations suggest.

"The asteroid that caused the extensive damage was much smaller than we had thought," says Sandia principal investigator Mark Boslough of the impact that occurred June 30, 1908. "That such a small object can do this kind of destruction suggests that smaller asteroids are something to consider. Their smaller size indicates such collisions are not as improbable as we had believed." Because smaller asteroids approach Earth statistically more frequently than larger ones, he says, "We should be making more efforts at detecting the smaller ones than we have till now."

The new simulation -- which more closely matches the widely known facts of destruction than earlier models -- shows that the center of mass of an asteroid exploding above the ground is transported downward at speeds faster than sound. It takes the form of a high-temperature jet of expanding gas called a fireball. This causes stronger blast waves and thermal radiation pulses at the surface than would be predicted by an explosion limited to the height at which the blast was initiated.

"Our understanding was oversimplified," says Boslough, "We no longer have to make the same simplifying assumptions, because present-day supercomputers allow us to do things with high resolution in 3-D. Everything gets clearer as you look at things with more refined tools."

The new interpretation also accounts for the fact that winds were amplified above ridgelines where trees tended to be blown down, and that the forest at the time of the explosion, according to foresters, was not healthy. Thus previous scientific estimates had overstated the devastation caused by the asteroid, since topographic and ecologic factors contributing to the result had not been taken into account.

"There's actually less devastation than previously thought," says Boslough, "but it was caused by a far smaller asteroid. Unfortunately, it's not a complete wash in terms of the potential hazard, because there are more smaller asteroids than larger ones."

Boslough and colleagues achieved fame more than a decade ago by accurately predicting that that the fireball caused by the intersection of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter would be observable from Earth.

Simulations show that the material of an incoming asteroid is compressed by the increasing resistance of Earth's atmosphere. As it penetrates deeper, the more and more resistant atmospheric wall causes it to explode as an airburst that precipitates the downward flow of heated gas.

Because of the additional energy transported toward the surface by the fireball, what scientists had thought to be an explosion between 10 and 20 megatons was more likely only three to five megatons. The physical size of the asteroid, says Boslough, depends upon its speed and whether it is porous or nonporous, icy or waterless, and other material characteristics.

"Any strategy for defense or deflection should take into consideration this revised understanding of the mechanism of explosion," says Boslough.

One of most prominent papers in estimating frequency of impact was published five years ago in Nature by Sandia researcher Dick Spalding and his colleagues, from satellite data on explosions in atmosphere. "They can count those events and estimate frequencies of arrival through probabilistic arguments," says Boslough.

The work was presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco on Dec. 11. A paper on the phenomenon, co-authored by Sandia researcher Dave Crawford and entitled "Low-altitude airbursts and the impact threat" has been accepted for publication in the International Journal of Impact Engineering.

The research was paid for by Sandia's Laboratory-Directed Research and Development office.



During the first days of December 2004, a multidisciplinary workshop was held in the town of La Laguna on the Canary isle of Tenerife with the title "Comet/Asteroid Impacts and Human Society". This was funded as part of a project with the same name by ICSU, the International Council for Science. The driving force behind the project is the realization of a need to support the development of both national and international policies regarding the impact hazard. And the direct goal of the workshop was to bring together experts on as wide a range of topics as possible with a bearing on all issues from the astronomical observations and dynamical theories to the down-to-Earth aspects of disaster planning and information chains.

The papers presented at this workshop - both keynote and research talks - have been refereed and are now available as a Springer volume entitled "Comet/Asteroid Impacts and Human Society - an Interdisciplinary Approach" (ISBN 978-3-540-32709-7), edited by Peter Bobrowsky and Hans Rickman. They were the leaders of the project and main organizers of the workshop, representing the International Union of Geological Sciences and the International Astronomical Union, respectively. The book has been prepared as a technical document describing the state of knowledge in many different fields in a way that should be understandable across all borders. It should not be perceived as the end of an effort but rather as the beginning of something new, i.e., a concerted effort to develop an interdisciplinary scientific field and bring the knowledge to both citizens and decision makers of society.

Hans Rickman

--* *

NEO News (now in its fourteenth year of distribution) is an informal compilation of news and opinion dealing with Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and their impacts. These opinions are the responsibility of the individual authors and do not represent the positions of NASA, Ames Research Center, the International Astronomical Union, or any other organization. To subscribe (or unsubscribe) contact dmorrison@arc.nasa.gov. For additional information, please see the website http://impact.arc.nasa.gov. If anyone wishes to copy or redistribute original material from these notes, fully or in part, please include this disclaimer.






CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, December 20, 2007

More on pirates:

A good background source of info on the current state of piracy is:


Note the dollar value> $16 BILLION a year. We are talking major crimes with a murder count running around 100 a year.

And this is crime that is usually not even reported because the cost of keeping the ship in port to handle police paperwork exceeds the value of the loss. Only about 1 event in 10 reaches the record, because of costs of increased insurance, or non working ship. A report is made only if there is a public record from injuries or stolen cargo etc.

And the record of the US government is very poor. We started out trying to bribe the pirates to leave us alone.

This century we just ignore the problem except when one of our warships is nearby, after all -- there are almost no US merchant ships. But even attacks on US Naval ships and planes are ignored in the interest of peaceful relations -- except when we want to go to war (i.e. the non attack in Tonkin Gulf or when Reagan wanted to regain a bit of our lost honor in the Cambodian rescue effort).



Continuing the discussion begun by Newt Gingrich's speech (part 4)

Subject: Dr. Cochran 

Dr. Pournelle,

I had not taken the opportunity to assess Speaker Gingrich's essay in detail, but (as usual) I cannot allow Dr. Cochran's comments to go without response.

Unfortunately, it does NOT take 1.1 billion Moslems to create an existential threat to the existence of the United States. All it takes is a small but variable number of fanatics (Islamic, Asian megalomaniac, environmental, name your favorite branch of fanaticism) with the proper resources, technology, and leverage.

A few properly placed 1 megaton bombs would effectively leave Western civilization for the taking, without even disturbing a molecule of dirt. A variant of Pasteurella pestis engineered for resistance to most modern antibiotics could be deployed worldwide in less than a day and destroy two-thirds of the world population. Dr. Schmidt was correct when he said in 1994 that the most logical explanation for Fermi's paradox was that any society will evolve until one individual (or a small group of individuals) with the will and resources to destroy that society can leverage the means to do so, at which point said society must either devote whatever resources are necessary to counter the threat (and such niceties as civil liberties be damned), or die.

The fact that the liberals are not only leading a (metaphorical) lemming-like stampede to cultural suicide, but are getting behind the stampede and pushing anyone who tries to resist out of the way, not only doesn't help, it encourages the various fanatics in their fantasies of cultural superiority.

I remain convinced that Saddam was a nascent threat, and that Iran is today (nor are they alone in that distinction). Iran may not yet have the resources to completely destroy Western civilization, but we're pitting our cultural tools of mass destruction in Iran against their cultural tools of mass destruction in London (per Mr. Dobbin's article linked today) and so far they appear to be winning. I have no doubt that if the Imam's believed they could destroy Israel today without retaliation, they would do so -- and I am not certain that, presented with a fait accompli and the (possible) opposition of Russia and China, that the US would act to remove the Imam's from power if they did so. I don't see "withdrawal to our shores" as a viable long-term option in a world where the destruction of civilization can be managed from half a world away in 30 minutes; that is no less true today than it was during the Seventy Years War; the group of key players who control the resources and make the decisions is no larger, may even be smaller (if perhaps more prone to violent infighting) than the Nomenklatura, the political leverage they wield is larger (since they have devout adherents, something that the basically atheistic Soviet could never manage), and their population base is more than three times what the Soviets and the Warsaw Pact could martial at the peak of their power.

I'm very aware that Saudi Arabian Wahabism is a threat on par with Iran, but the social and political dynamics remain different because of the essentially secular House of Saud. A fundamentalist Pakistan is also a potentially serious threat. But the major concern is the instability associated with the non-state but international nature the Islamofascist threat, with the corresponding inability to point fingers effectively and the concerns about protecting the religious and civil rights of the majority of Moslems who really do want little to do with the conflict.

I remain hopeful -- but unconvinced -- that my friends who believed on 9-12 that this would not end until all of the sand from Jordan to Pakistan had been converted to green glass were wrong. Unfortunately, they could also be wrong in the other direction, with the coming of Eurabia and the North American Continent under Sharia Law.

And if one believes Nostradamus that Armageddon is coming a short ten years from this week (and why haven't I seen that in the news?), I'm also aware that the most likely way, within the next decade, to raise an army of two hundred million to be incited to the fields of Megeddo is to enlist the devout males of that prospective sea of glass. (The excess male population created by the World's most populous country's popular gender selection policies being the second likely source, or the army could be divided between the two sources.) Not that I'm paranoid or anything.


Saddam was no threat the the US and never could be, and whatever thugs owned Kuwait wouldn't have made much difference to the US; it remains the case that for the cost of either Gulf I or Gulf II we could have gone a long way toward energy independence and brought the price of oil down to a point where the Arab kingdoms would have no surpluses: their income would vanish among the squabbling relatives of the various rules. Corruption can absorb a very great deal of money. If it were not so, we would not have trillion dollar budgets in the US.


Frankly, we'll be finished with Iraq before we finish with Afghanistan. There are two fundamental reasons for that. One is that in Afghanistan, we ended up with lots of European help. This causes such issues as divided chains of command, political meddling in the mission and objectives (not for the purpose of improving the match between what is being done and the desired outcome, but for the purpose of working their own national popularity polls) and the attendant creation of uneven treatment of the locals, depending on which national force controls the area. This isn't a good thing, as you strive to teach consistent lessons to said locals. However, more important than that, Iraq has a more cosmopolitan population and is simply a better place to work towards modernization. If the goal is to find a country in the Middle East and bring it into at least the 19th Century, with the expectation that this might spread some improvement into the region, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better place, on paper, to do this than Iraq. Strangely enough, there are those pesky signs of success…

I don't believe for a second that we'd rise up against the death of a thousand cuts from terrorists, since it didn't happen in the decade before 911. Every few months there was an assassination, a kidnapping, a bombing or some other attack on personnel from State, DoD, the military or even random civilians from some other country who were near a US embassy. If we make it a real priority, can we stop these sorts of attacks? Pretty much. Will we be allowed? Of course not. The sorts of treatment we find acceptable to conduct on our own people are claimed as torture by our enemies, our press and one of our political parties. Actual torture <http://news.aol.com/story/_a/
torture-center-found-in-northern-iraq/n20071220063109990015>  is ignored, since it might appear to justify our actions. Attempts to secure our borders, with everyone admitting that terrorists have slipped across with our "undocumented workers" get bipartisan opposition in DC, and the funds for the fence have been clobbered again. Congressmen have compared our military and intelligence personnel to Nazis and Communists with http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/016373.php <http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/016373.php>  as merely the latest.

Routinely the media reports on massacres which never took place in Iraq, or at least where nobody other than their locally hired stringers can ever find them, and no effort is spared to find ways to compare apples and oranges to make it clear what they expect us to think.

Do I believe that the Islamic Legions will sweep across the desert and attack my home anytime soon? Of course not. However, not all existential dangers must be within the next decade, or the next five. Demographics is the oldest and most effective WMD ever devised, and is an excellent reason to speak of the "Long War." Compare and contrast the condition of women in Norway, today and twenty years ago. The place to deal with such a danger is early on, when it is only a problem elsewhere. We can look at Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, even Britain to see what things will look like here if good men do nothing. The next step is to identify what the alternatives to nothing might be, and which of those are suitable responses for good men to make. Best to do this before we have incentive to make a wrong decision in the heat of the moment. We'll want to act before the bloody revolutions start in Europe.

There is a lot of money in the Arab world now, and much of it has been invested. If you cut off the addition of new money from oil, how do you cut off the addition of new money earned by the shares of businesses and whatnot they own? There are people who joke that there are only three superpowers, the USA, PRC, and Kuwait. How do we turn energy independence for the US into energy independence for the whole world, including nations that hate us and have for many decades? If we don't, all we've done is slightly reduced the price for oil, and that won't last as India and China drastically increase their energy uses. I fear the horse is spectacularly out, and no matter how effective the locks on the barn door, it solves a different problem. I think energy independence is worth pursuing for its own sake, but I do not believe we can lay this particular benefit at its feet.

It seems that Iran has believed they were at war with us since 1979. However, they only killed government employees and military types for the most part, so they were ignored. When it threatened other US interests, the USN was sent to secure the Persian Gulf. Now, they are fighting US military types in Iraq (  <http://www.longwarjournal.org/
archives/2007/12/iranian_qods_force_s.php>  ),

which, you will understand, rather annoys us, and which, in theory, should bother the US government, and they have a nuclear program which CIA believes is just to supplement their extensive oil reserves and which France, Germany, Britain, Israel, and the CIA prior to the successes of the surge all thought was intended to produce nuclear weapons. I submit that now that these additional conditions are in effect, it is quite justifiable to remove Iran from the "circular file" and place them into the "in box."

I do not believe return of the Old Republic is possible without some magical means for the public to redesign the election primary system to take control away from the True Believers, to develop enough of a shadow media to cripple the constant flow of propaganda in the guise of "education" (  <http://bookwormroom.wordpress.com/
2007/12/19/the-problem-with-american-education/>  )

and "entertainment"  <http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htiw/articles/20071220.aspx>  )

and let's not forget selected, tactical leaks from CIA and elsewhere in the government to consistently support one side of the US political scene. Show me a constitutional way to fight it, and I'm there, but the only such way requires considerably more of the public to notice the problem and admit it is a problem than is the case.

Note that for the record, a ten destroyer navy would be incapable of defeating piracy in Brazil, much less world-wide.

Serving Officer

The answer to foreign ownership of US vital interests is known as confiscation; are we not at war? If we took this war seriously, the Alien Property Custodian would have much work to do, as indeed was done in 1918 and 1942. (Which is why there are American Bayer and Bosch Arma firms.)

The propaganda system that had replaced public education is of course the major threat to the entire notion of a republic. Reducing the citizenry tro debtors works its magic as well.

I have always been in favor of restoring the Republic. I am not sure it cannot be done. I am quite certain that we know how to manage a competent Empire, and empire can be quite beneficial to the citizens, as witness the Parthenon.

Or can we? See next letter:


Republics and Empires


In all this Republic and Empire debate I always see the USA cast as Rome, either as the Late Imperial Rome of the Fourth Century A.D. or the Post Third Punic War Rome of the late Republican. (Nice photoshop of you as Emperor by the way).

I think that is a flawed analogy. If anything the United States is not Rome, (either Imperial or Republican) but Odoacer’s Ostrogoths, or perhaps (if we are lucky) Byzantium or the Carolingian Franks.

One of the dirty little secrets we no longer learn in school is that USA was originally designed to be a client state of the British Empire. Our interests were close enough to the British that we could trust the Royal Navy to hang pirates, ensure safe and free the sea lanes etc. while America’s upper class concentrated on getting rich off of speculation in western lands, railroads, the industrial revolution, and low taxes. It wasn't till the Spanish American War that we started thinking about an overseas Empire, as opposed to simply expanding the Republic westward.

The problem came when (I believe it was under FDR, perhaps Wilson) we decided that breaking up the British Empire should be one of our major foreign policy goals. The Brits used their Empire as a free trade union, and we viewed this with a certain amount of envy. We wanted to expand the de facto Empire we had in Latin America ( a co-operative venture between United Fruit Co.and the USMC) into the territory ruled by the British. Two World Wars gave us economic leverage over England and the break up of their Empire was the price they paid to us for victory over Germany; as Suez made clear in 1956.

The problem with disassembling the British Empire is that this forced the U.S. to take over all the dirty, expensive and thankless jobs that SOMEBODY has to do to keep the world working. This means that our society is slowly being transformed (and not necessarily for the better) as we warp it to create the institutions our job as THE Imperial Power requires. But since we want to maintain the fiction that we are NOT an Imperial Power we tend to do many of these Imperial jobs pretty badly.... but we are stuck because we are the ONLY ones that can do them.

Hence the Odoacer analogy. We aren’t an Empire, we don’t want all the dirty, expensive, unrewarded work involved with being an Empire, but General Powell’s "Pottery Barn" rule applies. We broke the British Empire, (as well as the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, Imperial German, Nazi, Japanese, Fascist Italian, and Soviet Empires) and now we have to buy it.

Why can’t we just refuse? Most people would say WMD's, force us into the Imperial role, in that no Empire means nobody to keep WMD's out of irresponsible, and likely angry, hands. However even more important than the WMDs are the Blueberries. I can go into Kroger and buy my daughter a half pint of fresh blueberries on a Tuesday night in middle of December for $5.00. You are old enough to remember when you could only buy fruit in season, so you can appreciate what a miracle it is to have berries flown up from South America in bulk; and that this miracle is the product of an amazing integrated economic machine. Without an Imperial "grown up" keeping that machine functioning it will quickly grind to a halt. No Empire means no blueberries in December, no cheap clothes from Asia, no cars and electronics from Japan, etc. Trade comes to a halt, and as the original Odoacer and his successors discovered, at that point VERY bad things begin to happen.

For a while it looked like we could do the necessary dirty Imperial deeds covertly, and via proxy, while keeping our shiny Republic facade up for the public. Then came the Senator Church hearings, the Pentagon Papers, the fall of Saigon and the Shah, etc. The willingness of the New York Times to print any document, no matter how secret, if it serves their political agenda (and the criminal unwillingness of the Government to do anything about it) has put that option off the board for the foreseeable future. We are currently seeing if new Mercenary Free Companies are a viable solution.

Expanding the Republic can’t be done. Unlike the Territories of the Old West, cultural and economic concerns prevent those various places best referred to as "Fubaristan" from being incorporated into the Republic, even if they were willing to be so incorporated, (and they are not). The Brits don't want the Empire back; it was EXPENSIVE and they would rather be spending their money on National Health Insurance and BBC Comedy shows than harbors in Singapore, clinics in Zimbabwe and giant battleships to rule the waves.

Bottom line is we aren’t Rome. We are now, as we were in 1776, rebellious English foederati, nothing more. Only now, we stand amid the ruins of great Empire that gave us birth, staring at the ruined remains of the massive edifices we pulled down, realizing we have little idea of if, or even how, to repair them; while messengers inform us that the Roman Mob still needs to be provided it’s circuses and bread, that the Huns and the Saxons still have to be dealt with, and that ambassadors from the Far East have arrived wishing to speak to whoever is now in charge.

Lets hope we can do better than the Goths and the Vandals did.

Take care

Brendan Kelly

"One of the paradoxes of our times is that the more that formal political life is emptied of meaning, the more that fairly trivial areas of life become politicised." Frank Furedi

"When will politicians realise that George Orwell's 1984 was a warning, not an instruction manual?'- Derek Clark, Member, European Parliament.

I presume you have read Experiment in World Order.


> your view of the intentions of the Muslim world are not entirely consistent with history. The fundamental message of the Koran is that there is the House of Islam and the House of War, and there can be only truce, never peace, between those. Of course truces can last a long time. Some of the Muslim world has experienced something similar to the Enlightenment in Europe. Much of it has not.

Your view of the optimum size of the Navy is not mine.

If we need a big navy, it isn't because of piracy. There isn't much piracy. Right now our margin over potential hostile navies is bigger, I think, than than the Brits had after the Napoleonic wars. A lot bigger: most of the Russian navy is crumbling and there's no one else close.

As for all that about the House of War: give me a break. Jihadism means that if someone actually invades a Moslem country for no reason at all - you know, like the Soviets did in Afghanistan, or we did in Iraq, the rest of the Moslem world can, with a favorable wind, scrape up ~1000 incompetent light-armed resisters per year.

Gregory Cochran

You keep shifting ground. I had thought my remarks were in answer to your statements about Muslim intentions, not their potential.

I will leave it to others to discuss the optimum size of the US Navy, but I will say I consider the Navy our contribution to World Order and it ought to be structured as such. Not the Army.


Fred Reed says:

Subject: Legions


On your blog you say that the Legions in Iraq do not want to be withdrawn, or so I understand you to say.

I am not nearly as plugged into the military as I was during the thrity years when I covered it. Still, I question the idea.

Do you mean that if the troops, some on their fourth or fifth tours I believe, were given the choice of flying home permanently tomorrow, they would instead choose to stay? Maybe soldiers have changed. When I was in Nam, the Marines I knew wanted to go home alive, with all their parts, and as soon as possible. Almost nobody voounteered for a second tour.

I'm speaking of enlisted men. Officers I didn't know at the time, but they are far more ideological and more likely, almost certain, to favor what they are supposed to favor.

Merry Christmas,

I replied:

I have no special insights but I do get a lot of mail. I gather that no one wants to cut and run and leave the people they made promises to.

We were long out of Viet Nam in 1975. It would have taken only air support and good logistics for ARVN to defeat the invasion by the armored corps; they had done it in 1973. We'd have had to bomb hell out of North Viet Nam and provide close air support in the field. In 1973 for the year there were about 500 US casualties and in that year we defeated an invasion by 150,000 NVA.

Do you really believe that the Air Force and Marines wouldn't have been able to find enough volunteers to defeat the 1975 NVA invasion? It wasn't an insurgency. It was pure and simple an armored corps invasion.

My concerns with Iraq are the bloodbath that will follow, and the reactions of the troops to what will happen. I could easily be wrong.

May I publish your letter? This is more or less the reply I will make.

Merry Christmas

Publish away.

Fighter pilots are a separate breed and I suspect would happily have bombed whoever was deemed in need of bombing. I was talking about Marines in 1967. They were not demoralized, at least in my amtrac outfit, but neither were they very interested in what happened to Viet Nam, disliked the Vietnamese, had no conception of the history of the country, and got cautious as they got short. And these were volunteers.


Fred also intimates that he may be sent on a journalistic assignment to Mesopotamia. I hope he goes. I'm a bit old to take up anyone on that offer (I've had a couple).

In Viet Nam we had won the insurgency and the war; we won a second war in 1972-73; and we would have had no problem winning in 1975 if it hadn't been for Watergate. Congress smelled blood in the DC waters and couldn't be bothered to safeguard a bunch of gooks in South East Asia just because America had promised them we'd help them, and poured in blood and treasure. The dominoes accordingly fell.







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CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


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Friday,  December 21, 2007


The day was consumed by locusts.





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This week:


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Saturday, December 22, 2007

How to save the airlines: Dump the male flight attendants. No one wanted them in the first place.

Replace all the female flight attendants with good-looking strippers! What the hell -- They don't even serve food anymore, so what's the loss?

The strippers would at least triple the alcohol sales and get a "party atmosphere" going in the cabin. And, of course, every businessman in this country would start flying again, hoping to see naked women.

Because of the tips, female flight attendants wouldn't need a salary, thus saving even more money. I suspect tips would be so good that we could charge the women for working the plane and have them kick back 20% of the tips, including lap dances and "special services."

Muslims would be afraid to get on the planes for fear of seeing naked women. Hijackings would come to a screeching halt, and the airline industry would see record revenues.

This is definitely a win-win situation if we handle it right -- a golden opportunity to turn a liability into an asset.

Why didn't Bush think of this? Why do I still have to do everything myself?

Bill Clinton

I can't vouch for the authenticity of this email...







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CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

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Sunday,  December 23, 2007

I took the day off.     






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